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Superstar Sleeze

[2002-08-25-WWE-Summerslam] Shawn Michaels vs HHH

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Shawn Michaels vs Triple H - Summerslam 2002

 

There may be no two more polarizing wrestlers in WWE than Shawn Michaels and HHH. It is almost entirely due to their "real life" personas (or what we know them to be from second hand accounts). I am not going to pick a dog in the race, but analyzing their matches always evokes a lot of emotion and passion. WWE pushes these two as two of the all-time great pro wrestlers in the ring. They are uttered in the same breath as Flair unlike Austin and Rock, who are usually associated with Hogan as great superstars as the WWE dictates. When HBK/HHH entered the ring for Shawn Michaels' first match in four years, it was a mere formality that this could become a part of WWE canon as one of the all-time classics. They would have had to put on a stinker the caliber of their Hell in a Cell match (I have never seen it, but it sounds atrocious) for this not go down as one of the premiere matches in company history. For hardened wrestling fans, this match is considered to be no good and vastly overrated. Where do I lie? I am closer to the WWE camp and I think this does belong best matches of WWE in 2000s, but in the greater scope of pro wrestling this can not compete.

 

I will say I felt a lot more emotion for Kobashi's comeback match in 2007 than I did for Michaels' comeback here. I watched the Kobashi match last year and to me that was just one of most emotional matches I have ever seen. Maybe it is because I knew Michaels would eventually make a full recovery or that I have seen this before, but it did not hit me as hard this time. The beginning shine was perfectly acceptable. It was not great, but not bad. Michaels was brutally betrayed by his friend so I would have liked to seen more anger, but overall he was pressing the advantage proving to fans that he has his trademark mobility by hitting a dive over the top to the outside. HHH was fine bumping around for him. This felt like a really good standard opening to a character-driven face vs heel match, not a blood feud. It was important to me that Shawn stay on top and suffocate HHH at the very least. Loved the teased Sweet Chin Music into a backbreaker. That was straight money. HBK did a great job selling the back. HHH worked over the back like a champ. This was an incredibly strong heat segment, maybe the greatest HHH's career. The backbreaker on the chair was fucking awesome. I loved the set ups for Michaels' hope spot like using Earl and getting the sledge hammer to give time for HBk to recuperate. The low blow and Sweet Chin Music into the chair was perfect, perfect one-two combo to get Shawn back on top. After taking such a hellacious beating, he needed two quick bombs to make this even remotely credible and those were perfect. Ok, so now onto the controversy.

 

The kip up. Yes after the awesome heat segment, he kipped up. For the rest of the match did not really sell the back (he did after a couple dives). It did not kill the match for me. I can understand the issue. There is no hard and fast rule about this at the end of the day. Sometimes, it is just going to bother certain people more than others. I still think it is a great match just not an excellent, classic one. Mostly because Shawn actually delivers one of his best comebacks of all time. Marty was usually the hot tag in the Rockers and Shawn's greatest weakness in his career was probably credible offense. I thought he was laying in some really great rights here and was really tearing into HHH. HHH tapped a gusher (one of his best qualities) and sold really well. The match did get a bit long in the tooth. For instance, I don't think he needed to dive off turnbuckle onto the table and dive off the ladder. The dive to the table got a huge pop and is a great spot. That was sufficient. Also, it get a little back-y n forth-y towards the end, but not as bad as some of the modern matches. They did a great job with the finish in relation to the rest of the match teasing each finish before HBk got the jackknife win.

 

Yes, the match was wrestled as more of a championship bloodbath than a blood feud match. Yes, Michaels did not sell the back down the stretch. Yes, it was a bit too long. I think the match accomplished more important objectives. if this was truly a one-off, Shawn Michaels would be able to go out on his own terms unlike Wrestlemania XIV where the amount of pain he was in affected his performance. If it was not and was to lead to something more, it proved Shawn Michaels of 2002 was every bit the Shawn Michaels of 1997 and he had not lost a step. He gave one of the best comebacks of his career and I think it was much more important he looked credible on offense in this match. HHH gave him more of the beginning and end because this was Shawn's match. I know they felt the need to put Shawn in gimmick matches to hide any shortcomings he may have had upon comeback, but I think it was the wrong move as coming right out of the gate with a bloodbath is tough. I think for the match they wrestled the jacknife cover was fine because it showed Michaels had just enough to win, but left it open for rematches. It fit the theme of championship bloodbath. HHH attacking the back with the sledgehammer was a perfect post-match beatdown and particularly gruesome. Call me crazy, I liked this one. Currently my WWE 2002 match of the year, but that should change shortly. ****1/4

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I've said before, two things had to happen in this match:

 

1) HHH works the back. He's 'The Cerebral Assassin' yadda-yadda-yadda... and even if he wasn't, Shawn's coming off a 4.5 year hiatus due to back problems.

 

2) Shawn kips-up. It's his 'I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaack!' moment.

 

That each is counter-productive to the other is... what it is. They could not have worked this match without doing both of those things. And don't try and tell me Shawn could've had that moment otherwise, his kip-up is his Hulk-Up, his pulling down the strap...

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Watching at the time I remember my only real beef was the jackknife finish. I get Sleeze's point about it showing that Shawn only had so much left in the tank to make the pin, but for the story they were telling winning didn't really matter. Shawn was only coming back for that one match to face Hunter and get revenge for the attack. Whether he won or lost was irrelevant to Shawn, since he wasn't going to be wrestling again. He wasn't concerned about positioning, so merely pinning Tiple H didn't really mean anything to his character. He needed to take him out, so I always felt he should have expelled every last bit of energy toward that end. The pin should only have come after he knocked Triple H out so significantly that a three count would have seemed definitive, as in "I accomplished what I set out to do - I beat you down". A flashpin, even after all the carnage, seemed pointless.

 

I don't mind the kip-up because it always read to me as "this is gonna hurt like hell, but I *NEED* to do this". MJH is right about that being his "thing".

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Can joining a website ruin a match for you?

 

2-3 years ago, I probably would've given this much a fair amount of praise. I mean, it has it all, right? Dramatic story, weapons, plenty of blood, a hot crowd...but after spending time around these parts, I feel like I've changed as a viewer and critic, especially when it comes to individual workers, such as Shawn Michaels.

 

Now, I'm not going to bury this match as it is still a highly entertaining spectacle, the kind of bout that casual fans would likely call incredible - but it really only works if you're willing to turn your brain off. Like a Fast & Furious movie.

 

This is not the first nor the last time an Unsanctioned Street Fight has been criticized for featuring the usual entrances with full ring music and a referee, but it does bear noting that Shawn Michaels at least comes out dressed for a street fight. Triple H does not. Shawn, despite nearly being killed a few weeks prior, starts the match by lazily resting on the top turnbuckle to, I guess, re-establish that he's a bit of a "silly goose"? Things improve dramatically when the action starts, especially when Triple H takes control and goes after Michaels' back. Its a logical, super heelish thing to do and the crowd gets behind Shawn even more.

 

...but things fall of the rails once Shawn kips up. I'm not against him kipping up, but could he at least put his hand on his lower back after doing it to sell the 2 backbreakers, abdominal stretch, and 2 sidewalk slams onto a steel chair that HHH hit him with it? The no-selling continues for the rest of the match as Shawn, at various points, dances, prances, and even gives an "I'm crazy!" gesture to drive home the point that this match isn't about winning and losing, its about Shawn showing that he can take all the crazy bumps he took 4 years earlier. This is a total 1-man show, maybe the most Shawn Michaelsest of Shawn Michaels matches ever.

 

Finally, the post-match. Remember how I said Shawn didn't sell anything after the kip-up? I was wrong. If it is possible to oversell a sledgehammer shot, Shawn does it here, inexplicably falling into a coma after taking two shots from Triple H's weapon of choice. Again, maybe it wouldn't come off as bad if Shawn wasn't, moments earlier, full of life and showing no ill effects from any of the multitude of weapon shots he had been hit with in the previous 20+ minutes.

 

The best way to describe Shawn's performance is "bungee cord-esque" as he bounces from complete, perfect, superman health to ready-for-the-crematorium dead at least 3-4 times capped off by him getting carried off on a stretcher in one of the most overdramatic finales I can remember, obviously trying to "steal the show" from the main event.

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I thought this was pretty great. The post-match was too over the top but the finish and everything else worked. Shawn not selling the back post-kip up didn't bother me too much either. There was actually a cool moment where he tried to land on his side while executing a superplex in order to minimize the impact on his back. ****

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I fall on the side of people who still rather enjoy this match. Loved how Triple H worked over the back and pre-comeback, Shawn does sell it incredibly well. All the little touches to like how Triple H still has eternal beef with Earl Hebner is a nice bit of continuity. Then you have the great spots like the backbreaker through the chair. Shawn's kip up and comeback are nuclear hot and the crowd is with him the whole way through. I also loved Shawn landing on his side for the Superplex and his highspots off the ladder and also off the top through the table were incredibly satisfying. The finish kept both guys looking strong and the post-match kept the feud going. Great stuff, and probably some of heel Triple H's best work post-2000.

 

****1/2

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This was a perfectly good plunder match. Not great, but it worked. Shawn's selling was bad near the end (particularly when he just pops up after jumping off the ladder), but Haitch did a surprisingly good job heeling. Instead of needing to be an ass-kicker, he instead targeted the injured back.

 

***1/4-***1/2.

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One of those matches that the majority of the fans praise but I don't. At least not to that extent. I didn't hate the match, quite the opposite as I enjoyed a chunk of it. I thought the early sections of the match with HHH beating down Shawn Michaels, working his injured back and heeling it up big time were pretty damn awesome. I love HHH but I hate HHH too as his matches can be so bad, but I really enjoyed what he brought to the table in the first part of the match. The match falls through after Shawn Michaels makes his comeback. Totally get why they structured the match in this way - HHH getting all the heat on HBK before HBK makes his comeback and hits all of his biggest moves - but it just felt so jarring to me. It never felt like Shawn was trying to win the match. Just show off, which, again, is understandable but it didn't connect with me. Michaels’ didn't sell the back at all once he did a kip up. The pacing was pretty bad in parts too and the match dragged as a result. Really tried to enjoy it but I didn't. Another thing I want to point out is that this is yet another HHH vs HBK match where HHH was the better of the two. Funny that. **1/2

 

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This was melodramatic as fuck, but why would you expect any different? Regardless of whether you like the match or not, the biggest thing the WWF Attitude Era had going for it is that you'd get the pre-match hype video where the wrestlers would say what they were going to do to each other in the match, and then you'd get a match where they'd do exactly that. JR would screech one hyperbolic statement after the next and the King would squeal whenever things got squeamish. People often complain when there's no story in a wrestling match and they complain when there's too much story. I can understand not liking Triple H and Shawn Michaels, and I can understand not enjoying the story here because you don't like the wrestlers involved, but I can also see an alternative viewpoint where the melodrama and production here was better than the CM Punk and Danielson AWE debuts. Personally., I thought it was a decent popcorn match, and it didn't drag like I thought a match between Hunter and Shawn would. So, in the end, it was an okay match. 

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